Students: Problem Solvers for our Future
by Lisa Glenn, New Global Citizens
At New Global Citizens, we kicked off February by facilitating a Global Leaders Workshop for Phoenix area colleges. During the workshop, students were introduced to the great challenges facing the world, including those enumerated in the UN Millennium Development Goals: child mortality, HIV/AIDS, universal education, poverty and hunger, etc. Some students had vast knowledge of the issues, while others had very little before entering the room. Over the course of the day, students examined an issue, researched causes, imagined solutions, and created action plans to address the issues. For me, the most remarkable part of the day came when student groups were asked to select an issue on which they believed was the most pressing for the world today. Almost unanimously, the groups chose universal education. Over and over again, I listened to groups explain how education supported all of the other goals that the world has agreed upon.
Perhaps more interesting than the selection of universal education as the issue to focus on, was the attitude change that took place over the course of the day. Students and faculty began the day merely interested in the issues. Through the course of the workshop, however, participants began to realize dire nature of these global issues, and as leaders, we could see the all-too-common paralysis setting in. But as participants were encouraged to create an action plan, the paralysis gave way to a prevailing hope and energy. When creating concrete steps toward a goal, even a lofty and overwhelming goal, students became excited and began to believe that even their bravest hopes could become reality.
Such an inspiring event only confirms my belief that universal education, and many other great needs in the world, will only be solved if we present these issues to the people most equipped to solve them: our students. Those individuals in our society who have yet to be told that their dreams are foolish and cannot be achieved, and so are still hopeful enough to believe them. Furthermore, students are those in our society who have the creativity and unique skills to reach the next generation.
Global universal education will only be achieved when our students receive a global education. In our experience, when students are presented with global issues training, they develop a heightened interest in the global issues they study, and form lasting connections to these issues, overwhelmingly leading to continued commitment to these issues in colleges and future career fields. Additionally, global issues serve as engaging content with which to present other content information, as students begin to make connections about why they are learning algebra, biology, and narrative form.
In the United States education system, we are currently undergoing a great change in standards, as well as skills training requirements. Education officials are in constant conversation about whether or not US students are "college and career ready," prepared for the competition on the global playing field. And yet, we're expecting students to achieve all these things and to walk into the workforce to solve the world's great challenges without having any direct experience with these challenges within the safe confines of the school. If we truly want to achieve global universal education, we must focus our efforts not only on campaigning for universal education, but also on requiring our schools to introduce their students to these issues in a meaningful way. We need the best allies we can get in the fight for universal education, and who better than our own students? With their creativity, digital know-how, increased interest in service and service-learning, and out-of-the-box communication skills, why wouldn't we fight to mobilize these fantastic advocates?
Lisa Glenn is the Education Coordinator at New Global Citizens.